Death is only temporary when you’re Jean Grey. Let’s take a look at the first issue of the series that will bring her back but be warned, there will be some minor spoilers within this review.
Written by Matthew Rosenberg
Illustrated by Leinil Francis Yu
Inked by Gerry Alaguilan
Colored by Rachelle Rosenberg
Lettered by Travis Lanham
She will return, like a Phoenix from the ashes.
Years ago, Jean Grey died and the X-Men mourned her. Since then, the world has changed, her teammates have lived without her and died without her. And now, when strange events start happening all over the world, those teammates can only come to one conclusion – the one true Jean Grey is back!
I love Jean Grey. As a kid, I got lucky and was in that sweet spot when the first X-Men movie hit and had X-Men (Fox) and X-Men: Evolution. Jean Grey is a character I grew to love quickly and as I dived into her comic book history more, I felt that bond with her even more. In fact, I’ve always felt a little protective of her. Jean Grey has been a character defined by all the things that have happened to her but in between all the Phoenix Force drama, she’s still managed to build friendships and romances. She’s led teams and been a crucial part of this part of the Marvel Universe. You see, Jean Grey, despite all that was thrown at her due to the Phoenix Force, fought on and fought back and now she’s back (baybeeeeee). “Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey” #1 presents a mystery that is decidedly nothing like any other return from the dead story. This is Jean Grey after all, it can never be so simple.
When we last left Jean Grey, she was dead and now returned as a ghost, assisting the time displaced teenage Jean Grey fight off the Phoenix Force. Unfortunately for all of them, the Phoenix Force claimed teen Jean’s life in “Jean Grey” #10. It’s unclear how soon after or before this issue begins but strange things are taking place in Annandale-On-Hudson, New York, a place very dear to the Grey family. The X-Men are called here after the police find two kids bleeding and floating. This place is important because Annandale-On-Hudson is where the Grey family lived and Rachel Grey begins to act strangely because she knows that something more is happening. She even mentions she had family that used to live here. Back at headquarters, the X-Men are stumped but they recognize three energy phenomena in a former Hellfire Club location, the North Pole and Mont Saint Francis, all three places are again, vital to the history of Jean Grey. The issue then departs and shows us somewhere different, a place with a Jean that isn’t aware that she’s that Jean Grey. It’s another mystery on top of a mystery and it leaves us with a final two pages that throw everything on its head.
“Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey” #1 does what most first issues in a series does, it’s setting something bigger up. However, this issue goes a little further than that because it doesn’t go about that as conventionally as others. Characters coming back from the dead is nothing new in the superhero genre, particularly in the books that the Big Two put out but Rosenberg does something really special with this script. It’s incredibly clear that he has a lot of love for this character and while this is quite a love letter yet, there’s a lot of love in here. Everything the X-Men run into references her history in some way but none of that weighs down the book for anyone just jumping into this to find out how exactly she comes back.
The last couple of pages are the ones that everyone is talking about but I don’t want to spoil those here. Instead, I want to talk about the craft of them and the atmosphere. Yu and Rosenberg go very out of their way to create this very retro yet otherworldly atmosphere in these later pages. It seems like they have brought us inside the White Hot Room and because of this, I got this weird Twin Peaks vibe from these pages because nothing here feels right. Yu’s work is still very pretty but it doesn’t match what the other X-Men are doing and that’s why it works so well in regards to taking the reader somewhere else. It’s also a very unexpected mystery to add on top of everything else. I didn’t feel like I was reading something that was paint by numbers when it comes to someone coming back in comics. This is plotted nicely and drawn so well.Continued below
Yu and Alaguilan work extremely well together on pencils and inks. Yu is one of my favorite constants at Marvel and when he’s good, he’s one of Marvel’s absolute best. I love his designs and the variations in facial structure and reactions. His characters have life in them and each panel is fully complete. I know where things are happening and I know how the characters interact with that. Yu also does a great job bringing the right level of drama depending on the situation. The actions scenes flow well and the early pages of this issue are full with the right level of creepy. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors are a perfect compliment to Yu and Alaguilan’s work. She hits the right mood and doesn’t go too harsh with the color work. One of the coolest things she’s able to do in this issue is during the scene with Kitty and Beast explaining what’s going on. There are maybe 20 characters in that crowd scene and each of them pop. She pays special attention to their unique looks and I loved that. Later in the issue, she takes things to a softer place adding to that otherworldly feeling but I wish she had gone even more surreal than she did and took a bigger chance.
“Phoenix Resurrection: The Return of Jean Grey” #1 is a good start to what will surely be a wild return for a fan favorite character. How she actually comes back and why is still unclear and the jury is still out on whether or not this will become a X-Men classic. I’m hooked though and want to see what happens.
Final Verdict: 7.5 – There’s still a lot still unknown and I can’t say for sure if this will all end up being a signature Jean Grey story but this issue gave me hope and I loved the mysteries put forward.